October 5th, 2020
By Rehan Piracha
On the international Day for Teachers on October 5, teachers claim that the economic downturn due to school closure has left thousands of their colleagues jobless, which has further strained the education system.
There are close to 2 million teachers in Pakistan, making teaching the biggest employment sector in the country, according to educationist Baela Raza. School closures due to the COVID pandemic has had a devastating impact on teachers, she says.
School closure left 1.5 million teachers unemployed, according to Kashif Mirza, President of All Pakistan Schools Federation. He claims that four teachers had committed suicide while 400 others died of heart failures due to the financial crunch in the past six months. Mirza says about 750,000 teachers have been laid off since the reopening of schools.
Thousands of teachers in the private sector suffered pay cuts while government teachers got no increment in salary and pension in the budget. Muhammad Hussain, a college teacher, says government teachers are often deputed on odd jobs like dengue control, census duty, polio vaccination, thereby undermining their primary duty as a teacher. Hussain says teaching is a profession of the last choice in the country. According to him, 90% of teachers never thought they would end up in the profession.
Rana Liaqat, Secretary-General of the Punjab Teachers Union, says the provincial government is not filling 80,000 teachers’ vacancies in the province.
The Punjab Teachers Union has planned a protest outside the Parliament in Islamabad on October 6th, along with other government employees. The protest is being held for bringing uniformity in pay scales of provincial and federal employees, a rise in inflation, revision in pay scale and allowances, and an end to contractual employment.
About lessons learned from the COVID pandemic, Raza says activists and parents have become a new cadre of teachers in the COVID lockdown. Social media applications are now new tools of teaching, she concludes.